My husband will probably be starting hormones and this may eventually lead to gender reassignment surgery. I fully support him, however it goes. There is a lot of advice out there for how transgendered people should tell their partners or parents, but very little for how supportive partners should tell their families. Any advice? (longer story inside)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Some background: both of us are in our mid-30s, we have been together for 6 years, and I've known about his identity since before we started dating. I (female) identify as gay/bi -- well, I thought I was entirely interested in women before meeting him, now I'm not sure what you'd call me, nor do I really care that much. Our relationship is extremely happy, our sex life is great, and I love him (call him Chris) dearly; he is the bravest and strongest and funniest person I know. [I am calling him "he" because that is the pronoun he usually uses nowadays, even though "she" is closer to the emotional truth.]
He has spent the last 7 years (ever since telling me) doing a combination of hoping that he could ignore it, and then eventually (as it became clear that that wasn't working) slowly doing lots of painstaking psychological work on himself. Over the past two years or so he has come to the conclusion that he really has to do something more than just internal psychological work: i.e., visiting a therapist, starting to take hormones, and include as a possible end-goal having a sex-change operation. He is quite miserable with this aspect of his life as it currently stands. I am fully supportive of whatever option he chooses to take. The money for surgery, should it come to that, won't be an issue, nor will his job situation.
I'm writing because we both really feel like I should tell my parents. He told his a year ago, and (though it threw them for a loop) they responded about as well as you could possibly expect: telling him they love him still, will support him, etc, even though they are made obviously uncomfortable by it (and I expect that once he starts showing physical changes will be more so, but they will probably be able to work through it).
My parents, though, are much less worldly and open than his ... they are impressively open-minded for their cultural background, but also have fairly rigid senses of what is proper and what isn't. When I came out to them, the result was two years worth of extremely awkward silence on the entire topic of relationships, though they did not shun me in general or anything, and it was quite clear they still loved me. Eventually, when I had been dating a woman somewhat seriously for a while, my dad gave me a little speech about how whoever I fell in love with was fine with them, and things got somewhat better; but we still didn't talk about it much and they were still enormously, transparently relieved when Chris and I started dating. I obviously didn't give them any of the transgender backstory at the time; I publicly identify as bi to them, but we really don't talk about it. They really, really like Chris, and not just because he seems like a guy to them.
I am fairly close to them (even though we don't talk about some things), and I truly like and admire them. I also live quite far away, so really only see them a few weeks out of every year. I want to tell them about Chris because it's starting to feel like a huge secret to keep, and it's going to come out (no pun intended!) at some point soon anyway once he does start with the hormones, and especially if surgery and living full-time as a woman becomes a realistic option. The sooner we tell my parents, the more time they have to get their heads around it.
An additional complication is that they live in the town I grew up in, which is very small and fairly conservative. My parents are very well known and many people know and still ask about me. So even if they were okay with things, Chris getting a sex change would put them in many difficult social situations; in fact, I think they would probably have more social fallout than we would (we live in a fairly open-minded metropolis, and many of our friends either know already or will probably be okay with it when we tell them). I feel bad about this, but don't see any way to stop it.
Anyway, a few questions.
1. If you were my parent, how would you want to be told? What things should I emphasize or downplay? I plan on saying that I still love and support him, and that it wasn't something he did "to" me, and that our situation is stable, with friends, etc. Other thoughts?
2. How should I play this, long-term? I was thinking of telling them, and then backing off entirely and giving them several months to process it before saying anything more on the topic. Then I would slowly raise it casually in conversation (e.g. "Chris saw the therapist for the first time today") and gradually require more out of them in terms of talking about it, etc. But I don't really know. We just visited and probably won't see them in person again for many months.
3. How explicit should I be of our expectations for them? What I really hope is that they do their best to inform themselves about what it all means, and (even if they don't understand) try to accept Chris as he (or maybe eventually she) is. And make it so that I can bring Chris when I visit without horrible awkwardness. But should I give a timeline? Is that too dictator-like? Will that alienate them even more?
4. Why am I so nervous about this? It's almost worse than when I came out myself, even though it's not me facing a personal rejection this time.
5. Any other general advice? We both don't really have a lot of perspective on this at this point.
Thanks, and sorry this was so long, it just felt like all these details were important.
My throwaway email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.